Report From AvalonCon

Rick Desper

Avalon Con was a load of fun. I have never before played that much Diplomacy in one weekend. Three full-length games, plus one Gunboat game on Saturday evening.

My first game went pretty well. I landed Germany, one of my better countries. I got to meet Simon Szykman, Pouch publisher and Dip presence, who was playing Italy. I'm not so great at remembering names: Mike Tibbs was Russia, Austria and Turkey were Mark and Vince. I don't remember England's name (he didn't last long), and France was Rex Martin. Had I known at the beginning of the game that Rex was one of the original designers of the game, and an employee of Avalon Hill, I probably would have been even more nervous than I was when I started. Nervousness exacerbates a tremor I have, so at the beginning of the game I am convinced everybody thought I was nuts.

The game went pretty well, with E/F, R/T, and central powers scrambling. Due to some unusual builds (only one fleet for England and zero for France in 1901), England was quickly overwhelmed. A/I stalemated R/T until the Russians landed in Ankara, broke the A/I alliance, and overwhelmed Austria. Italy kept France in check until the Turks broke lose. Austria went nuts and tried to invade Germany, but had his supply lines destroyed, so only one army made it. I abandoned the Vaterland and started sinking Russian fleets in Scandanavia (one...two...three...)

The game was timed to end after between 6 to 8 hours, at which point any coalition that controls 29 SCs can decide who shares the draw. As we passed the 7.5 hour mark, France, Russia, and Turkey were working together to get me down to five SC's so that they could exclude me. Austria and Italy (1 SC each) were trying to help me stay at six for grins and giggles. The very last move consisted of the Austrian Army in Ruhr moving to a vacant Holland (my SC) while my fleets in Denmark and North Sea cut the possible supports (from the Russian Army Kiel and the French Army Belgium) so that neither could make an attack stronger than the Austrian attack. I survived the year with six SCs, and time was called less than a minute later. So I got a share of a four-way draw.

My second game, the next day, featured a Rick & Rick alliance between my Russia and Rick Copeland(?)'s Turkey. We were doing crazy things in the Balkans, but we missed out when we took Greece instead of the Ionian in 1902. Italy replaced lost forces with a couple of fleets and Turkey was boxed in. In the West, a Sealion crushed England in three years, but this was followed shortly by a stab by France of Germany. I was attacking Germany, sort of from necessity, but he had attacked me in Scandanavia, so my SC's stayed even. Just as my armies were about to swing into Bohemia and Tyrolia, though, which would have crushed Austria completely, the smooth Austrian talker convinced Other Rick to stab (a decision he later admitted was wrong). Italy was playing a meta-game strategy: to try to ensure that his France from the previous day ranked well, he abandoned the boot in order to surround France with three fleets. Austria, Germany, and I were mucking about in Germany while I was telling Other Rick "Look, you can take Sevastapol, but not anything else, so why not stab Austria and go for the big gains?" He eventually did this, as France carried secret messages to me to ensure that Austria was surprised. The final move saw Italy wiped out as A/I grabbed the boot, Germany wandering around away from the homeland, and my army taking Rumania with Turkish support. At this point, England and Italy were dead, Germany was a wreck, and although Austria and I each controlled 6 SC's, neither of us had a single fleet. We called it a two-way (FT) and hit the bar early.

The gunboat tournament was okay, but a bit too slow for my tastes. I'll let Simon describe the game if he chooses. His Italy did much better than my France. There were a lot of miswritten orders, as two of the players were simultaneously playing in the Machavelli final, and some of us have gotten so used to the Judge's parsing as a crutch to ensure that every force has an order written. (Gee, how did those Germans get into Burundy anyway?)

I was going to sleep late Sunday and just come in for the awards but I woke up at seven so I went in for the final round. I landed Austria, which fit my crazy mood well. I was hoping for best stab. My first instinct was to go Key Lepanto, but Italy was very new to the game, so I offered to let his fleet land in Greece as long as my fleet was let into the Ionian. The idea was to forego the build in favor of the position. With Russia and Turkey bouncing the Black Sea, this seemed like a risk I could afford. Well, there was a miscommunication that I interpreted as a stab, and Italy took Greece with an army, leaving me with no second build and no decent position. In 1902, the Russians started invading. Having just slugged through three games where I was sweating through on my tactics, I decided "oh, screw it!" and tried to slam into Italy. It would have worked had I not been lied to by both France and Turkey on the same move. I went down to one SC, just as Russia was taking Vienna, Budapest, and Norway, and making a fleet move to Armenia that completely hosed the Turk. Carl(Turkey) convinced me not to become a Russian lackey, so the next year the anti-Russian coalition of IAT held the line at Trieste/Serbia. The following year, however, the Italian turned, and I popped.

The rest of the session I alternated between watching the Russian win my game and watching the "Show me the Love" table. I can't really explain that one -- I think you had to be there.

On the whole, I was extremely pleased by the large number of very good players. Only in my last game did I run into a newbie. Even when I was being attacked, I was having fun. I remember Rick Mannus's (Russia) explanation for his army in Galicia ("They're going to Italy" - "That's ridiculous!" - "I know, I don't even believe it myself!"). I probably gave Russia more grief than he deserved just because his lies were so poor.

On the whole, the Dip tournament was a lot of fun. I really hope I have the time to make the trip from Jersey next summer.

Rick Desper
Rutgers University

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